Farhan Thawar, Software Engineer

Farhan talks about internships at Pivotal LabsVideo from Kev Greene on Vimeo.

VP Engineering, Pivotal Labs

Farhan Thawar is a programming and engineering guru who has been working in the tech field for the past 15 years. He is a well-known and respected figure in Toronto’s tech community and was named one of “Toronto’s 25 Most Powerful People.” Farhan’s tech advice was featured in Forbes, TechChrunch, Wired, Venture Beat and Tedx Toronto.

But Farhan doesn’t like to keep his wealth of knowledge all to himself. He likes gifting it forward, which is why he uses his industry and mobile expertise to mentor aspiring mobile and tech startups. Farhan also believes that when making decisions in work and in life, you should always go for something you find a little bit scary.

How did he become so successful and what drives him every day? CareerMash caught up with Farhan to find out the answer.

The Engineering Mindset

Farhan always had a healthy dose of curiosity and passion when it came to technology. “When I got my first computer at age 14, I took it apart right away because I wanted to see what I can do with it,” he says.  Soon after, Farhan started to learn programming and even had to code without a screen for a while as he was waiting for a repair.

To Farhan, the engineering mindset involves finding ways to automate a manual process and then sitting down and building your idea. “My dad would spend hours every day researching stocks online, but I had the training and the thinking to write a program that would automatically scan 400,000 lines of data and tell him what stocks would be a good investment,” Farhan says. 

Education and Early Career

Naturally, Farhan went on to study Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, where he met Amar Varma who later founded Xtreme Labs – a leading mobile strategy development company – in 2007.

In his academic and early career years, Farhan held software engineering jobs in tech companies like Trilogy Software, Celestica, Microsoft and Achievers. Throughout his journey, Farhan kept in touch with Amar and they both shared their successes and failures.

In 2007, just as Farhan had completed his Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree in financial engineering from the University of Toronto, Amar invited him to join Xtreme Labs as Vice President (VP) of Engineering.

In 2013, Xtreme Labs got acquired by Pivotal Labs, a San Francisco native, where both men work today at the Toronto office to transform how the world makes software.

Enabling Innovation at Pivotal Labs

As VP of Engineering at Pivotal Labs, Farhan and his team of engineers work closely with the company’s clients to help them determine their mobile strategy. “We don’t build things for folks, we want to provide them with the tools and knowledge to enable them to build things for themselves, so they can continue to innovate in the future,” Farhan says.

He is a huge believer in gifting forward, which is why he gives away his “secret sauce” to people every day. “When you tell people your secrets, you will get their feedback and it will help you improve as a professional. In return, they will share their secrets – it’s a reciprocal thing,” Farhan says.

Why did he choose a tech career? “In tech, there’s no way to know where you will end up. We currently live in a time where the mobile revolution is causing a fundamental shift in computing and things are changing at a rapid rate. But in this process of not knowing, you get to work with some of the smartest people in the world,” Farhan says.

Farhan’s Best Career Advice

  • “As long as you love something and work hard at it – there will always be room for you in the field.”
  • "Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you – this will motivate and inspire you to work harder than you’ve ever worked before and therefore become more successful.”
  • “Maintaining relationships is crucial to your success – chances are high that you’ll find your next career move through your network.”
  • “In life and in work, always pick something you find a little bit scary. For example, pick a job where you know 70% of the work - the remaining 30% will be your room for growth.”